By Tom Licata
“Liberalism” is a kind of political philosophy that evolved out of the Modern Age, which followed the Medieval era, beginning roughly in the 15th century.
Liberalism is at risk of being replaced with a new “illiberal” era known as the Postmodern Age and its offshoot which I will call the Critical Social Justice Movement (CSJM). Understand that “Liberalism” and this postmodern CSJM are irreconcilable. You can have one or the other but not both.
Postmodernism arose in the 1960s and rejects whether objective knowledge or truth are obtainable. Postmodernism believes that knowledge, truth and reality are mere social or cultural constructions put in place by those in power in order to maintain that power. Postmodernism believes that knowledge is a construct of power and that this power functions through our discourses (ways in which we talk about things). Thus, knowledge can be altered and power structures toppled by changing the way we talk about things. These ideas came from the works of French postmodernists such as Michel Foucault.
Cynical Theories, by Pluckrose and Lindsay, nicely summarizes this epistemology (how we obtain and understand knowledge):
“We begin in the late 1960s when the group of theoretical concepts clustered around the nature of knowledge, power, and language that came to be known as postmodernism emerged from within several humanities disciplines at once. At its core, postmodernism rejected what it calls metanarratives-broad, cohesive explanations of the world and society. It rejected Christianity… science, reason, and the pillars of post-Enlightenment Western Democracy…. [It] aims to deconstruct what we might agree to call “the old religions” of human thought-and replace them with a new religion of its own, called “Social Justice”… It is also evident in their assertions that society is simplistically divided into dominant [primarily white] and marginalized [primarily non-white] identities and underpinned by invisible systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, [and] cisnormativity…”
Postmodern ideology views everything through the lens of power, language, knowledge and how they interact with each other. This lens views the world as a kind of zero-sum power-game, detecting power dynamics in every interaction. It’s a worldview that focuses on social and cultural grievances by manipulating identity markers like sex, race and sexuality. It is a culture not of charitable dignity but of retributive victimhood.
Critical theory is an important tool in achieving these ends. Born of Marxist ideology, it seeks to uncover supposed hidden biases or “problematics” in society’s systems. Critical theory picks at the current political order like one would pick at a scab, never letting the bleeding stop or healing to occur. Its aim is the de-legitimization of the current liberal political order, i.e., our Constitutional Republic. Its Black Lives Matter cousin, also of Marxist origins, acts as vessel for this soft revolution.
Kimberle Crenshaw, a founder of Critical Race Theory and the progenitor of the concept of intersectionality, in her 1991 essay, “Mapping the Margins” openly advocates identity politics over liberal universalism. Liberalism – in the spirit of Martin Luther King – seeks to remove the social significance of identity categories and treat people as equal individuals. Identity politics restores the social significance of identity categories. Crenshaw is an advocate of seeing herself and others as “I am Black” as opposed to “I am a person who happens to be Black.” Why? Because the latter achieves self-identification, in effect, “I am first a person”. The former takes on a socially imposed group identity.
And here we witness the outright rejection of the individual and the universal; the human and humanity. In Crenshaw’s worldview the “individual” is merely an aggregation of their various ‘identities’ (female, black, lesbian) and each group identity possesses their own “truth” or “lived experience” and hence universal human empathy or even open debate is unobtainable. This is a regression back towards tribal animism.
This is important: Capitalized “Social Justice” as a proper noun refers to the specific, dogmatic and increasingly authoritarian definition of social justice. Lowercase “social justice” refers to the more generic form of social justice found in the liberalism of the Modern or Enlightenment era.
When VT Digger, Seven Days, VPR, WCAX, Burlington Free Press, et al. parrot Racism! Racism! Racism!; Climate Change! Climate Change! Climate Change! et al., know they are merely employing the postmodern techniques of “language games” where language as the constructor of knowledge and the “making” of the individual are on full display: Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Inculcate. Indoctrinate.
It’s time to say No Mas!
Reified means ‘to make real’ and this cancerous ideology of postmodern Critical Social Justice has taken root-and-branch in Vermont, embedded within our government institutions and schools, all under the guise of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DIE).
It’s what President Abraham Lincoln warned of in his 1838 Lyceum Address:
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
God Bless the United States of America.
The author is a Burlington resident and 2020 candidate for the Vermont Legislature.